Archive

Where I'm Calling From: New and Selected Stories

Where I'm Calling From: New and Selected Stories

author: Raymond Carver

name: Steev

average rating: 4.42

book published: 1969

rating: 4

read at: 2014/09/10

date added: 2014/09/10

shelves: spirit-self, own-it, short-fiction

review:
Carver was definitely a master, and well worth reading. However - and here's where my review becomes more about personal and momentary taste - I'm not sure if he will stand the test of time, or even is doing that now. To me his characters are hard to identify with, although I can sympathize with them. It's just that often, they seem stuck in a time that's thankfully past - the sort of 40s through 60s time of couples who don't really talk, men (and in some cases women) who drink too much, get in fights, play their gender roles to the hilt, and leave their families at the drop of a hat, etc etc. Generally lots of not very conscious, unhappy, low-grade jerks, sadly bumbling through their sordid lives. Perhaps there's still a lot of people like these out there, but to me this feels dated. Carver's a a step up from Hemingway in that at least he recognizes the sadness of these people and isn't just celebrating macho stoic males. Still, I'm preferring, these days at least, fiction that resonates more and is addressing what it's like to be alive now. Perhaps I'll be accused of subscribing to the dreaded "relatability" fad, but I find more spiritual sustenance in protagonists that are more modern - folks that are vulnerable, smart, dorky, and nice, but still get into trouble and have a hard time. Following the mishaps of dudes whose flaws have mostly been addressed by my generation and demographic is interesting, but not necessarily the most useful to me in my quest to become a wiser and better person.
That said, Carver was an expert at his craft, and in the context of his background and time, is worth reading - just like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Shakespeare, etc. It's just not what's floating my boat these days.

Alternadad

Alternadad

author: Neal Pollack

name: Steev

average rating: 3.40

book published: 2000

rating: 5

read at: 2014/11/15

date added: 2014/12/31

shelves: children, fun, gentrification, own-it, homesteading, memoir

review:
Just what I needed.
It was surprising how much of the book is about not just "alternative" parenting but about gentrification. The story is the story of a dude growing up and starting to value a way of life (domestic, family-based, child-centered) different than he used to, and trying to reconcile that with his values about class and urbanity and growth and re-development, etc.

The Housing Monster

The Housing Monster

author: prole.info

name: Steev

average rating: 3.77

book published: 2011

rating: 5

read at: 2015/02/10

date added: 2015/02/24

shelves: politics, gentrification, own-it

review:
Excellent. Essentially a marxist analysis of the housing and construction industries, but a modern one. Includes an erudite chapter on Soviet Russia and why it wasn't really communism but was in fact just another form of state capitalism.

In addition to the smart writing, the graphics are brilliant. Some of them I feel like blowing up into poster size and wheatpasting around town.

How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic

How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic

author: Ariel Dorfman

name: Steev

average rating: 3.88

book published: 1971

rating: 5

read at: 2000/01/01

date added: 2014/12/31

shelves: politics

review:

I, Slutbot

I, Slutbot

author: Mykle Hansen

name: Steev

average rating: 3.92

book published: 2014

rating: 5

read at: 2015/06/08

date added: 2015/06/08

shelves: novels, after-the-fall, fun, own-it

review:
Full disclosure: Mykle's a friend. Despite that, believe me when I say this is a great book. His best yet. Mykle Hansen's work almost always contains elements of the "silly" and over-the-top wackiness. But don't let that fool you. There's downright fine writing in there. Really. And this book's a page-turner too. I made myself late to things because I didn't want to stop reading this book.

The story is many things: a nuclear armageddon sci-fi space opera, a parody of space operas, a satire on the porn industry, a meditation on artificial intelligence, a feminist allegory, and more. The commentary is spot-on, the humor kills, and language is artful, the messages profound.

American Psycho

American Psycho

author: Bret Easton Ellis

name: Steev

average rating: 3.82

book published: 1991

rating: 4

read at: 2014/11/16

date added: 2014/11/18

shelves: novels, own-it, fun

review:
This is an odd novel. It's a light-hearted, absurdist satire about rich people and New York and trendiness and fashion. But it's also a violent, misogynist horror story full of ultra-graphic, impossibly extreme gore and brutality. Oh and super graphic, porn-style sex scenes.

It's one of those books where I wondered often why I was still reading, and yet couldn't put it down.

Some things I really enjoyed about it:
1. One running gag is that the narrator is always mistaking people for other people, and in turn he's always being mistaken for others. Co-workers or acquaintances come up and greet him by other names, etc. It happens so often as to be this hilarious and biting commentary on modern alienation.

2. The anachronism of the time the book is set in. It's so clearly late-80s, it almost hurts, to read about the cordless phones, video rentals, answering machines and INXS playing at the clubs.

3. The porn-style sex scenes. Really just because they, along with the killing scenes, are such a stark contrast with the rest of the book, which is mostly vapid recountings of evenings spent dining at trendy eateries and the designer brands everyone is wearing.

Anyway. I hate to admit I've never read any other Bret Easton Ellis, but this makes me want to.

The Baffler No. 27

The Baffler No. 27

author: John Summers

name: Steev

average rating: 4.17

book published: 2015

rating: 5

read at: 2015/07/16

date added: 2015/07/16

shelves: politics, own-it

review:

OG Dad

OG Dad

author: Jerry Stahl

name: Steev

average rating: 3.86

book published: 2015

rating: 4

read at: 2015/07/31

date added: 2015/07/31

shelves: children, fun, spirit-self, memoir, own-it

review:
For a lot of this book, I would reluctantly have to categorize Stahl's writing as basically "trying too hard." Occasionally he has a moment of real cleverness, or of real profundity. But too often he edges past those points and over the cliff of ham-fisted awkwardness.
I think if I wasn't myself a parent, and for that matter a quasi-OG Dad myself, I would only give this book 3, or even 2, stars. But there's enough stuff that resonates and is a smart take on things I've been living too, for it to be worth wading past the dumb bits. I think maybe Stahl's been in the Hollywood TV writing world for too long, or something. His writing here often feels like Groucho Marx trying to be Charles Bukowski - or maybe vice versa. I have felt for years like I would like to someday read his celebrated memoir "Permanent Midnight", but if it's the same level of craft as this, I might not get around to that.

Still, there are some great gems. He adequately conveys some of the experience of being a creative, "edgy", but aging, guy who finds himself, amazingly, a new father. If you don't care about the aging part, I think Neal Pollack's "Alternadad" is a better read. But Jerry Stahl has clearly been through the shit and come out the other side.

Ongoingness: The End of a Diary

Ongoingness: The End of a Diary

author: Sarah Manguso

name: Steev

average rating: 3.96

book published: 2015

rating: 5

read at: 2015/05/22

date added: 2015/05/22

shelves: memoir, spirit-self, own-it

review:

The Baffler No. 26

The Baffler No. 26

author: John Summers

name: Steev

average rating: 4.22

book published: 2014

rating: 5

read at: 2014/12/15

date added: 2014/12/31

shelves: own-it, politics

review:
Excellent, as usual. the "Dads of Tech" and piece by Astra Taylor is a highlight, as well as the one about disability.